American Triumph, European Failure

Fareed Zakaria's excellent comparison between European and American immigration policies gives the price to the United States.

It's true. American immigration policy bests France and Germany easily.

Driven by petty jealousy and fear, Germans have been unable to attract tech workers from India. But Germany does have plenty of underpriviliged immigrants from the former East bloc and Africa. Those people are so poor that they will not be deterred by draconian laws or a weak economy.

The best qualified individuals, however, have options. As Zakaria points out they will not leave their home countries and their families to be discriminated until the end of their days. A generous immigration policy attracting the best and the brightest, is one of America's most important advantages over her global competitors. It drives what America is best at: innovation.

Criminalizing foreign students and researchers when they get married or their visas lapse on technicalities and bureaucratic delays will only induce the best and the brightest to go to Canada or Australia. The latter two get it. They have already taken advantage of a less attractive America and recruited talent that was deterred by immigration reform after September 11.

Researchers will be less willing to invest their life time if they are told that they can only stay a few years. That's why it would be a mistake to establish a Kennedy-McCain guestworker program. The Germans have tried it and failed. They have not learned from it. May be, Americans can learn the lessons of history better.

French and German attitudes to foreign talent are driven by arrogance, insecurity, and jealousy. It's a model that pleases their passions but does not serve their interests.

Americans would do well to check passion and calculate the effect of any immigration reform on their interests. That does not mean that nothing can be done about illegal immigration. But knee jerk reactions driven by anger will only make things worse.

The best and the brightest do not come here to get criminalized. They come to the United States in pursuit of their talents and their future. A guest worker program that will deport them soon, cannot meet their needs. Their loss is our loss when the American economy looses top personnel.